Sunday, January 27, 2008

People vs. Larry Flynt

The movie, People vs. Larry Flynt, is about a guy (Larry Flynt) who has been dragged to courts all through his life, jailed, and shot at, crippling him for the rest of his life, all because he published and sold pornographic magazines in United States.

The movie deals with a topic that is distasteful to most conservative populations in the world – pornography. But yet, it defends the right of this man, considered the lowliest, the distasteful, the disagreeable and egregious of all. The highest value being – ‘I detest what you say, but yet, I will fight for your right’.

India and Indians do not understand what freedom means. They equate it to being able to piss anywhere they want, even in the middle of the street. They think they can shut up anyone they want to. If it means attacking or beating up someone, or using the political clout, so be it. They do not distinguish between universal values and personal values. This is a good time, after sixty years of freedom, to reflect upon how we look at our values as a nation. I think this movie ought to be shown to all the adult population of India, and if needed shown on all TV channels on Republic Day and Independence Day.

I was watching this movie for the second time yesterday. I thought it made sense to write some of those dialogs here for the readers.

Larry Flynt, publisher of a risqué magazine, called Hustler, is taken to court for publishing and selling pornographic pictures. In the court, he defends his right to publish pornography though it is distasteful to some.

Q: But isn't a community allowed to set its own standards?

Larry Flynt: No. That's just a disguise for censorship. This country belongs to me as much as it belongs to you, Mr. Leis. If you don't like Hustler magazine, don't read it.

Q: I don't. But what about the innocent children who gaze upon your magazine in our grocery stores?

Larry Flynt: If a kid gets caught drinking beer in a tavern we don't ban Budweiser across the nation.

In this blog, I have done my best to defend the rights of minorities, the distasteful, the disagreeable, the downtrodden, and the backward (with some exceptions). However, the film summarizes this stand much better than I could have done.

Alan Isaacman, the lawyer defending Larry Flynt makes the case to jury.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury you've heard a lot here today and I won't try to go back over it all. But you have to go back in that room and make some decisions and there is one thing I want to make very clear to you before you do. I'm not trying to convince you that you should like what Larry Flynt does.

I don't like what he does.

But what I do like is that I live in a country where you and I can make that decision for ourselves. I like that I live in a country where I can pick up Hustler magazine read it if I want or throw it in the trash, if that's where I think it belongs. Or I can not buy it.

I like that right. I care about it. And you should care about it too because we live in a free country.

We say that a lot, but sometimes we forget what that means, so listen again.

We live in a free country.

That is a powerful idea. That's a magnificent way to live. But there is a price for that freedom, which is that sometimes we have to tolerate things that we don't necessarily like.

So go back in that room where you are free to think whatever you want to think about Larry Flynt and Hustler magazine.

But then ask yourselves if you want to make that decision for the rest of us because the freedom that everyone in this room enjoys is, in a very real way, in your hands.

If we start throwing up walls against what some of us think is obscene we may wake up one morning and realize that walls have been thrown up in places we never expected and we can't see anything or do anything.

And that's not freedom. That is not freedom.

PS: I realize something more. The opening quotation on this blog – “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one”, is attributed to Larry Flynt.


  1. was Larry Flynt acquitted or convicted?
    Reminds me of one of my favorite novel, Seven minutes.

  2. smitha:
    was Larry Flynt acquitted or convicted?

    Convicted and acquitted (somewhat in that order) ;-)


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